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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Lib Dems pledge to make the UK the 'apprenticeship powerhouse of Europe'

The Liberal Democrats say they will make the UK the apprenticeship powerhouse of Europe by creating more new apprenticeship places per year than Germany. Central to the ambition is a commitment to double the number of employers offering apprenticeships to young people to 360,000 - as part of a big expansion of apprenticeships.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary, has led the Coalition's drive to deliver more than 2.2 million apprenticeships in government, twice as many as were delivered under the last Labour government. This vast expanse was in apprenticeships which are, in general, longer (at least one year) and more advanced (level 3 and above).

The Liberal Democrats propose:
  • New national colleges through the vision in Vince Cable’s Green Paper for a new generation of colleges filling the gap left by the abolition of polytechnics by Labour.
  • A concentration on higher apprenticeships - level four, foundation degree and above - building on the Coalition's work.
  • An emphasis on apprenticeships in key areas of skill shortages: digital, construction and engineering.
  • Developing the emphasis on employer ownership with more apprenticeships to small and medium sized enterprises which currently have poorer take up.
  • A commitment to help employers by exempting them from national insurance when taking on apprentices and by providing hundreds of thousands of apprenticeship grants for small businesses throughout the next parliament. 

Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills said:  "The world is changing at an accelerated rate and we need equip our young people with the skills they need for the future, to ensure they can compete in a global market place, in ever changing technologies and the digital economy. That is why the Liberal Democrats will double the number of employers providing apprenticeships over the next five years and create more apprenticeship starts per year than Germany."

"To achieve these objectives requires significant investment in skills by both government and the private sector. As we grow our economy, the Liberal Democrats believe we must enhance adult skills training and our further education colleges." Dr Cable added.

Labour pledge fairer plan to control immigration

Εd Miliband has announced the next step in Labour’s plan to control immigration by driving out the exploitative practices that drive down wages – and drive up low skill migration. He says Labour have changed their position on immigration. And he will reiterate that it can benefit our country, saying that Britain will only succeed in the future if we work together to root out employment practices that drive down wages - and do more to champion integration in our communities.

He announced that the next government will establish a special Home Office Enforcement Unit with more than 100 staff to root out the illegal exploitation which undercuts wages and conditions for local workers. The new unit will bring together teams from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and specialist police units with additional Home Office enforcement staff. It will have the powers needed to investigate abuse and the clear task of increasing the number of prosecutions and fines against bad employers and gangmasters who exploit workers to undercut conditions.

Mr Miliband also announced new measures to champion integration in our communities and public services by ensuring all NHS staff have good standards of English so they can care better for patients. In a major speech in the North West, Mr Miliband condemned David Cameron for making false promises on immigration at the last election when the Tories promised to cut levels to tens of thousands. Pointing out how since then the Prime Minister has presided over a rise in numbers to 300,000, he will say the politics of broken promises from the Conservatives, and seeking to exploit legitimate concerns by UKIP, corrode public trust in our democracy.

He made clear that, as the son of immigrants himself, no government he leads will ever turn away from Britain’s traditions of openness, tolerance and diversity. But he will also emphasise that it is not prejudiced to be concerned about immigration and that the system does need to change. He set out how he will control immigration with a better plan based on five, clear Labour principles:
  • Rebuilding trust.
  • Securing borders.
  • Restoring contribution.
  • Championing integration.
  • Ending exploitation.

Highlighting how Labour has plans to employ 1,000 more border agency staff to increase border security and enforcement, Mr Miliband will say that controlling immigration does not stop at the border but also means action in every town and city where low-skilled migrant labour is exploited and local workers see wages and conditions undercut. He explained that the proliferation of low paid and insecure jobs, often paid less than the minimum wage or on zero hour contracts, are symptoms of a deep problem in sectors of our economy, such as food, hospitality and care, that are increasingly reliant on low skill migration.

And he set out plans to bring together teams from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, specialist police units and other anti-exploitation officials with new Home Office enforcement staff in a new unit. This team will have full investigatory powers to enforce Labour’s exploitation law – criminalising, once and for all, the sort of practises used by unscrupulous employers and gangmasters. Mr Miliband announced further measures to implement Labour’s manifesto commitment for better integration in our communities by ensuring public sector workers in public-facing jobs have minimum language standards.

Recognising the huge contribution immigrants have made – and continue to make - to the NHS, he said they will be able to care better for patients if they have minimum standards of English. He announced the next government will legislate to extend English language requirements, currently limited to just a few occupations, to all health and social care professions.

Mr Miliband said immigration can benefit Britain but that he has changed Labour’s approach on this issue to drive out exploitation and help build a country where working people succeed: "Labour’s vision is a future that works for working people, with a recovery that reaches every part of our country. And as we seek to build that future: one issue that working people need the next government to deal with is immigration. I am the son of immigrants. I know immigration can benefit our country. I will never denigrate the contribution immigrants have made to our country or seek to exploit people’s legitimate concerns. But Labour got this wrong in the past. We have listened. We have learned. And we have changed." 

Mr Miliband said that, unlike David Cameron, Labour’s plan will show it will only to make promises it can keep: "David Cameron made a promise before the last election. ‘No ifs, no buts’, he said. He told us he would get net migration down to the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands. He even invited us to kick him out of office in five years if he didn’t deliver. But net migration rose to 298,000 last year. Almost exactly three times higher than he promised. The Tories’ target is in tatters."

"Britain needs a Prime Minister who will only make promises on immigration that he can keep. Real promises that will make a real difference: a better plan; a plan that starts with strong borders; so people have confidence that we control who comes into the country; a plan that’s founded on fair rules, where wages can’t be undercut and benefits must be earned; a plan that’s based on the right values."

Mr Miliband said that the Tories and UKIP will never be able to tackle immigration properly because they don’t understand that an epidemic of exploitation is driving up the number of low-skill workers who come here. "Too often, this is an anything-goes economy: people who live in the most appalling, cramped conditions, sleeping 20 to a house; people who are paid well below the minimum wage; people who have their wages stolen. It’s exploitation of the worst kind. But it isn’t just bad for those people directly affected, it drives down standards for everybody else, undercutting local workers, and making life harder for responsible employers. It is an epidemic of exploitation and we will end it."

"This Labour Party will fight exploitation wherever we find it. And to enforce this, I can announce today, that we will establish a new Home Office Enforcement Unit. This will be a unit of at least 100 officers who will have one overriding duty: to stop the abuse that makes the working families of Britain poorer. This new unit will have the powers and funding it needs to increase the prosecutions and convictions of Britain’s worst employers: those who exploit workers and drag down the wages of everyone else."

Mr Miliband set out how he says Labour will strengthen social integration and ensure that everyone, including those who come to work here in our vital public services, can play their part to the full. "Our communities are changing but we don’t cope with change by closing our doors to each other and living our lives in separate worlds. We must live together across communities. And it is why I believe a simple principle: everyone in Britain should know how to speak English, it is something we should expect from everyone who comes here, especially those who work in public services in public facing roles, and nowhere is that more true than in our NHS."

"We all know the crucial contribution that people from overseas have played in our NHS and continue to play today. I will never demean or devalue their contribution to our country. But it is also crucial that people who come to fulfil these roles don’t just have skills to care for people but also the skills needed to communicate with those for whom they care. So in the future all healthcare professionals will be required to speak English to a sufficient standard so they can care effectively for patients. And we will legislate to give all the healthcare regulators - not just some - clear powers to enforce this rule."

Friday, 17 April 2015

Labour will end the 'scandal' of unpaid internships

Ed Miliband today declared that Labour will ensure the best career opportunities should be open to people of all backgrounds by ending the scandal of unpaid internships which only the richest can afford. In a speech in Lincoln to unveil Labour’s Manifesto for Young People, A Better Future for Young People, he committed the next government to legislation banning companies from offering unpaid work experience for more than four weeks and forcing them to pay such young working people at least the minimum wage. 

He said unpaid internships are increasingly making some of the most sought-after jobs out of reach for many young people who cannot afford to work for nothing during long internships. Mr Miliband also said this is not only unfair on those who do not have access to money from their parents but is also damaging Britain itself because it is denying our country and our businesses the chance to benefit from the talents of all young people.

The announcement coincides with new YouGov polling data released by Intern Aware showing that Labour’s four week legal limit would not lead to a reduction in internships:
  • 62 per cent of businesses say it would make no difference to the number of interns they recruit.
  • 10 per cent say it would make them more likely to hire interns; 10 per cent say it would make them less likely to hire interns.

Publication of Labour’s manifesto follows an unprecedented consultation involving thousands of young people through the Shape Your Future campaign. Other measures being announced today include:
  • Reducing graduate and national debt, by cutting tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 and increasing student maintenance grants by £400.
  • Guaranteeing high quality apprenticeships for all school-leavers that get the grades.
  • Making work pay by banning exploitative zero-hours contracts, and raising the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 by October 2019.
  • Investing in the jobs of the future and showing our commitment to climate change by making Britain a world leader in low carbon technology over the next decade, creating a million more green jobs.
  • Ensuring no young person is left behind, by guaranteeing a paid starter job with training to all those unemployed for more than a year.
  • Tackling rising housing costs, by building more homes, helping first time buyers and legislating for longer and more affordable tenancies in the private rented sector.
  • Strengthening the voice of young people by giving 16 and 17 year-olds the right to vote.

Mr Miliband will commit the next government to ending the scandal of lengthy unpaid internships: "In this country, if you want a good job in a highly prized sector, you’re often asked to work for free, often for months on end, sometimes even a year. It’s a system that’s rigged in favour of those who can afford it. Putting careers in highly prized jobs – in the arts, media, fashion, finance and law – out of reach for huge numbers of highly able young people."

"It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it prevents our companies drawing on all the talents our nation has to offer. So we’ll put a stop to it. We’ll end the scandal of unpaid internships. So today I can announce, with a Labour government if you do work experience for more than four weeks, you’ll get at least the minimum wage, opening up the professions and extending opportunity for all."

Mr Miliband will herald a better future for young people. "Today we’re here to say: Britain can be better than this for young people. And we can do this, because we know a simple truth: Britain’s future depends on the energy and creativity of its young people. All your ambition, all your dreams. It is our duty to support every single one of you to be the best they can be. Over the last five years, I’ve been talking about the Promise of Britain. The promise that says the next generation will do better than the one that came before it."

"It’s a promise that this country was built on. But it’s a promise that for your generation has been broken. With this government, it is young people more than any others that have been made to carry the burden of hard times. Facing a future of growing debt, of increasingly insecure work, a home of your own just a distant dream for so many. That’s not the future you believe in, that’s not the future I believe in, that’s not the future the next Labour government will build. So we have a better plan for education, for jobs, for housing, and for the character of our country."

Nick Clegg: Vote Lib Dem to beat the SNP

Nick Clegg appeals to Labour and Conservative supporters to vote Liberal Democrat to beat the SNP. In a visit to the Liberal Democrat/SNP battleground constituency of Gordon today, where the race is between Liberal Democrat candidate Christine Jardine and former SNP Leader Alex Salmond, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg will reach out to Labour and Conservative voters who do not want to be represented by an SNP MP.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is expected to say: "In 11 Scottish seats, you face a simple choice: do you want an SNP MP or a Liberal Democrat MP? In these seats the Liberal Democrat candidate is the only one that is in a position to beat the SNP. So if you are someone who is considering voting for the Conservative or Labour candidate, my message to you is this: lend us your vote and we can stop the SNP winning in your constituency."

He will also criticise the SNP for risking the economy with excessive borrowing and wanting to break up the United Kingdom, saying: "The SNP are not the party of Scotland, they are the party of debt. They want to borrow more and more money – an eye watering £180bn – and their plans for full fiscal autonomy will cost the people of Scotland £7.6bn. They will risk our economy and leave our children and grandchildren to pay for it for years to come. 

"The Liberal Democrats are working for Scotland in a way that is responsible, fair and keeps the country on track.The SNP are shouting from the sidelines and are determined to keep a minority Labour Government on life support, limping from vote to vote towards the break-up of the UK. Do you really want a Government on life support, with Alex Salmond deciding whether it succeeds or dies?" Mr Clegg is also expected to say.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

NHAP launch manifesto for a strong NHS

The National Health Action Party launched its  election manifesto today, on the day that the ex-NHS boss warned that all parties were ignoring the funding crisis and the NHS was heading for substantial problems. Launching the manifesto and releasing a party election video, NHA co-leader Dr Clive Peedell said his party is the only party fully addressing the £30bilion NHS funding gap and the underlying problems facing the NHS: "We're the only party that is serious about fixing our NHS. We're the only party you can trust to do the job. The NHS has always been there to fix us when we're ill. Now it needs us to restore it to health."

"We're the only party that is talking about an immediate cash injection for the NHS; not in 2 years or by the end of the parliament but right now. We are the only party that is prepared to back up its pledges with a real commitment."

In a thinly veiled attack on the Tory mantra of a strong NHS relying on a strong economy, Dr Peedell said: "We need a strong NHS for a strong economy. The NHS is not a drag on the economy. Investing in healthcare stimulates economic growth and keeps the workforce healthy, while austerity increases the need for health services and drags down our NHS. The NHS isn't unsustainable or unaffordable. It's under-funded. We spend the least of all G7 nations on health."

The NHA Party, was launched in 2012 by doctors, nurses, paramedi​​cs​, NHS ​staff and ordinary members of the public in opposition to the coalition's top-down NHS reorganisation, recently condemned by a leading health think-tank as "damaging and distracting” and even dismissed by Tory insiders as "unintelligible gobbledygook."

The Party has decided to field just a dozen candidates at the general election, preferring quality over quantity. Its candidate include co-leader ​and cancer specialist, Dr Peedell ​challenging David Cameron​ in Witney and ​GP​ Dr Louise Irvine, chair of the ​ successful​ Save Lewisham campaign, taking on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in South West Surrey. She’s being backed by Brian May and his Common Decency campaign – and is currently second favourite to win the seat, far ahead of the other main parties.

Dr Peedell went to say the NHA Party is more than just about the NHS: "We're fighting for a healthy NHS that puts patients before profits. We're fighting for a properly funded NHS that helps you and your family when you're at your most vulnerable. But we’re also fighting for a healthy Britain and healthy society‎. That means a fair economy, an end to austerity and a parliament that works for people not politicians."

He called on the public to vote not just for the NHS but for the sort of society they want to live in: "The way a society delivers its healthcare reflects the values and nature of that society and the people who live in it. The way our political leaders are behaving, fawning to the nasty voices in our society, is moving us towards a society based on fear and self-interest. We don't believe the majority of the British people want this sort of society. We hope you will join us in pushing for a society based on fairness, equality of opportunity and compassion."

And he said the NHA Party could play a crucial part in coalition government: "The prospect of a hung Parliament could put MPs who are independent of the main parties in a very powerful position whoever forms the next government. Even just a couple of NHA MPs could make a huge difference, standing up for our NHS. Health is the top election issue. Voters should use the ballot box to send a clear message - stop running down and selling off our NHS."

Dr Peedell added: "As we are only fielding a small number of candidates, we aren’t entitled to a party election broadcast. So we hope voters will watch our election video instead."

Lib Dems launch BAME mini-manifesto

The Liberal Democrats have set out plans to outlaw caste discrimination, overhaul stop and search powers and tackle the BAME pay gap. The announcement comes as the party releases its BAME mini-manifesto.

Other measures outlined in the document include:
  • Building on the coalition's BAME Access to Finance report to identify ways to encourage more BAME applicants to apply for finance and set up small businesses.
  • Encouraging businesses to ensure at least one place on their board is filled by a BAME candidate.
  • Maintain funding for people to develop and improve English language skills to enable them to fulfill their potential.
  • Challenge discrimination in the criminal justice system by boosting police recruitment from BAME groups and conducting a full review of the causes of the over-representation of BAME individuals in the criminal justice system. 

Announcing the mini-manifesto Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: "Liberal Democrats believe that no matter who you are, where you come from and whatever your circumstances, you should have the opportunity to fulfil you potential. I am proud that Britain today is an open, tolerant country. Our culture and economy is stronger as a result of the diverse range of people who have chosen to make their home here. By giving everyone the opportunity to get on in life, we can ensure a competitive economy and fair society that draws on everyone’s talents."

"As the mini-manifesto sets out, the Liberal Democrats will ensure that our liberal commitment to equality runs through every policy area." Mr Clegg added.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Lib Dem manifesto offers opportunity at its heart

The Liberal Democrats have released their 2015 General Election manifesto, describing it as a ‘manifesto with opportunity at its heart’. The 33,000 word document is a detailed and credible plan to build both a stronger economy and a fairer society.

The manifesto includes:
  • Opportunity for children: with investment in education from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every classroom
  • Opportunity for young people: with more apprenticeships, discounted bus travel, a massive increase in housebuilding and support to rent or own their own home through the innovative Help to Rent and Rent to Own schemes
  • Opportunity for parents: with more free childcare and more paternity leave for fathers
  • Opportunity for workers: with a further £400 tax cut for millions of working people
  • Opportunity for older people: with the pensions triple lock written into law and the extra £8bn a year the NHS needs by 2020 to cope with the pressures of an ageing population
  • Opportunity for the next generation: with the budget balanced and our environment protected so that our children and grandchildren are not left to pay for the mistakes of this one

As with the party’s 2010 manifesto, the Liberal Democrats’ top priorities are spelt out on the front page. They are:
  • · Prosperity for all: Balance the budget fairly and invest to build a high-skill, low-carbon economy
  • · Opportunity for every child: Guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every class
  • · Fair taxes: Cut your taxes by an additional £400 by raising the Personal Allowance to £12,500
  • · Quality healthcare for all: Invest £8bn to improve our NHS and guarantee equal care for mental health
  • · Our environment protected: Protect nature and fight climate change with five green laws

Speaking at the launch, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said: "This manifesto is a blueprint for a stronger economy and a fairer society. This manifesto is a plan to finish the job of balancing the books, and to do so fairly by protecting our schools, hospitals and public services. This manifesto is an insurance policy against a government lurching off to the extremes. At its heart is one word that is absolutely central to what Liberal Democrats believe: opportunity. No matter who you are, where you were born, what sexuality or religion you are or what colour your skin is, you should have the same opportunity to get on in life."

On the choice facing voters on 7 May, Nick Clegg said: "I’m not denying that either David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be Prime Minister. One of them will. But you know and they know that neither of them will win outright. Neither of them will have a majority in Parliament. So what really matters is who they will have by their side. Someone is going to hold the balance of power on the 8th of May and it won’t be David Cameron or Ed Miliband. But it could be Nigel Farage. It could be Alex Salmond. Or it could be me and the Liberal Democrats.

“So ask yourself this: Do you want Nigel Farage walking through the door of No 10? Do you want Alex Salmond sat at the cabinet table? Or do you want the Liberal Democrats? The Liberal Democrats will add a heart to a Conservative government and we will add a brain to a Labour one. We won’t allow the Conservatives to cut too much and jeopardise our schools and hospitals. And we won’t allow Labour to borrow too much and risk our economy again." Mr Clegg added.